Long Beach Jazz Festival – 2014

Congratulations and thank you to Al Williams for this wonderful festival that he started 27 years ago. That’s amazing! Normal thinking would wonder why there aren’t a lot more “Long Beach Jazz Festivals” in this community of millions of people who really do love and produce great music for the world. Of course we all shout, “Thank you”, to our local Jazz radio stations for not only announcing this festival but also playing the music for decades, such as 94.7 The Wave and KJLH.

Not many venues like this. Long Beach as a community of businesses and residences and international activity is truly exploding. It’s like 42nd street all the time with the Queen Mary and five-story loading cranes looking on. This is one of the busiest harbors in the world. And don’t forget the enormous blue whale mural painted on the Long Beach Arena. The festival grounds at Rainbow Park Lagoon is neatly tucked into all of this and offers music lovers this other kind of day at the beach right on the pacific ocean.

Today we shared the afternoon and evening with Lalah Hathaway, Daley, Hiroshima, and Will Downing. Wow, that’s a lot to take in in a short 8 hours of music.

Part of me longs for and prays for that good ole intimate club setting with a small compact audience that you touch hands with and rub against as you go on and off stage. And so I deliberately try to create that effect as often as possible in this festival setting.

I can’t wait to shout about Rodney Holmes, our brilliant new drummer who’s stepped in to fill some mighty big shoes of Mark Simmons, who is taking a little family leave of absence. He never missed a beat. He played everything that Mark’s job requires and also brought his own flashes and flares of newness to the audience and the band. I could feel us all kind of suppressing a giggle of delight that we had found him.

When we talk about and sing “Nitakungodea Milele”, the Swahili phrase in “I will be here for you”, there is a magical kind of transformation in these old friends who were transported immediately to 20 years ago when they first heard this unusual little phrase in a song.  This was almost the delight of the day for me.

Now, here’s how this multiple acts madness on one stage gets really crazy. For six months we have been planning an hour-long program. We timed the songs, and rearranged them into a list that would make a great listen for the audience and include all of the Jarreau signatures. And right in the middle of the program (the eighth song out of 11) I hear from the side, “We’re late! Hurry!” And we skip over a really important song in the set that I call a refresher like sorbet that makes your ears ready for the next song. So we move on and hope that “We’re in this Love Together” will do what it always does. And it did. They sang real loud and enjoyed their long relationship with this song.

And then it’s, “Yo, Al, stop.” So we skip to “Roof Garden/Reach for It” from the new George Duke Tribute album, and we get offstage just in time.

IT ALL WORKED. The producers had big grins and smiles on their faces as we came off stage. We had a meet and greet with the press and shared some long overdue hugs.

Thank you to everyone for coming out!



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